Ned Kehde’s History of Finesse Fishing

Ned Kehde’s History of Finesse Fishing

Ned Kehde lives around Lawrence, Kansas and has done a lot of fishing as well as written a lot of good articles. He is a great guy who is willing  to share ideas. Ned sent us this article; it tells the history about various lures that are still popular today. We knew a little bit about the history of different lures as well as our Puddle Jumper but did not know about  their role in developing so many of the lures and techniques used today.  This article is full of rich history and ideas on how to catch fish. We hope you enjoy this article and thank Ned for sending it to me.

In the minds of most folks in the angling world, eastern Kansas is considered one of 
the world’s premiere catfishing capitals.  Such thinking is substantiated by the fact it’s 
where the world-record flathead catfish, weighing 123 pounds, was caught.

It’s a rare soul, however, who thinks of eastern Kansas as being the wellspring of 
finesse tactics for largemouth bass. Most folks deem Southern California as the 
birthplace of finesse and pinpoint its genesis as beginning in the late 1970s and early 

It all started, however, in the late 1950s at Fincke’s Tackle Shop in Kansas City and was spearheaded by Chuck Wood, who became the first maestro of finesse.

During his nearly 30-year infatuation with finding ways to catch largemouth, Wood created the Beetle, Beetle Spin, Texas-rig jigworm, and Puddle Jumper. In addition, he devised a bevy of modifications to other lures.

Wood’s efforts were supplemented by Ted Green at Mar-Lynn Lure Company in nearby Blue Springs, Missouri, where the first jigworm was created in 1956. Moreover, the Hibdon clan at the Lake of the Ozarks, which was a relatively short trip from Kansas City, was in the initial throes of developing their finesse tactics for catching largemouth bass.

And a short distance to the south of Kansas City in Amsterdam, Missouri, Virgil Ward 
began his Bass Buster Lure Company in 1955.  In essence, the simultaneous confluence of Wood, Ward, Hibdons and Green made Kansas City the epicenter of finesse.

Wood primarily plied small waterways, and the countryside of eastern Kansas is graced with scores of small public and private reservoirs, ranging in size from a few acres to more than 400 acres.  Some of them contain prodigious numbers of largemouth bass, along with a significant quantity of lunkers; for example, Wood was known to land as many as a hundred bass a day, and his biggest largemouth weighed 10 pounds, three ounces.

One of Wood’s favorite methods for inveigling the bass that abided in these small 
waters was to use a medium-action spinning outfit festooned with an 1/8-ounce black 
marabou jig and black pork eel, which Wood customized so that it was a thin three-inch strip of pork that undulated and gyrated with the slightest twitch of his wrist.

Another favorite was the jigworm, and it was from the nubbins of his mutilated Creme 
plastic worms that Wood’s Beetle and Beetle Spin eventually evolved.

Even though Wood caught bass galore on jigworms and black jig combos, he perpetually tinkered with other lures and methods in hopes of expanding his finesse repertoire and catching more and bigger bass.  For instance, he was always intrigued with jig-spinners, and once upon a time, he even attached a jig-spinner to a small Pico Perch, and even with this bizarre combination, he waylaid the bass.

Besides his fondness for the Beetle Spin, he liked to wield small spinnerbaits, and a 
3/16-ounce single-spin was his favorite.

Dyed-in-the-wool California-style finesse anglers wouldn’t classify Wood’s fondness for little spinnerbaits and his peculiar renditions of a Pico Perch as examples of finesse tactics; they maintain that finesse fishing is putting a small lure affixed to a light line into 30 and 60 feet of water. Of course, Wood couldn’t probe 30 feet of water because the waters he fished rarely reached that depth.  But Guido Hibdon, the great shallow-water finesse angler from the Lake of the Ozarks, would salute Wood as a preeminent tactician of finesse.  

No matter what lure Wood elected to wield, he had no piscatorial peers in northeastern Kansas. In fact, it is often speculated that Wood caught more bass from Kansas waters than any angler ever has caught, and conjecture has it that no one is likely to surpass him.

Across the years, a few other anglers have found that Wood’s small lures and finesse 
tactics are as fruitful on big waterways as they are small waters.  For example, during the 1960s Wood taught two Kansas City area high-school students about the art of finesse fishing for largemouth bass, and those lessons paid grand dividends:  Drew Reese, using two of Wood’s finesse techniques, participated in the first Bass Master Classic and Dwight Keefer competed in the third one.

Initially, Vigil Ward and Bass Buster Lure Company were reluctant to manufacture and 
merchandise Wood’s Beetle, contending that it wouldn’t be an effective lure in big 
waters. But during a big-water outing with Ward, Wood showed Ward the errors in his 
thinking, and ultimately the Beetle became Bass Buster’s best selling lure. Of course, a small black marabou jig, similar to one that Wood often employed, became another Bass Buster mainstay.

Despite the never-ending effectiveness of Wood’s tactics, they have never captured the fancy of most bass anglers – especially those anglers who ply the tournament circuits. In fact, some bass anglers pejoratively refer to finesse lures and methods as belonging to the realm of sissies. Furthermore, as power fishing became the primary motif of the majority of tournament anglers in the 1980s and 1990s, the employment of finesse tactics by serious recreational anglers declined – even in eastern Kansas.